8 Impact Freshman for 2011

We’re still over a month away from the start of fall camp, but with freshman reporting to Notre Dame in the near future, it’s a good time to start looking at which incoming frosh may see the field for the Irish this fall.

Aaron Lynch - Notre Dame DE
It will surprise no one if Aaron Lynch finds his way onto the field very early on for Notre Dame in 2011. (Photo - Icon SMI)

Notre Dame landed one of it’s strongest, most well rounded recruiting classes in recent years this past February so there are no shortages of potential instant impact freshman.  In fact, it would be in many ways surprising if more than a couple logged significant, meaningful minutes for the Irish from very early on.

Here’s a look at eight players we may be hearing from sooner rather than later.

1. Aaron Lynch – This one should come as no surprise to anyone.  Even before Lynch grabbed everyone’s attention in the Blue Gold game, he was already on everyone’s short of potential impact freshman for Notre Dame.  What was most surprising about Lynch’s performance in April was his plays against the run.  Most felt Lynch would be more of a pass rush specialist early on, but his strong play against the run could earn him a lot of playing time early on.

2. Ishaq Williams – Williams didn’t put on quite the same show that Lynch did in the Blue Gold game, but he was more than solid and could find his way on the field early as a pass rushing specialist.  Notre Dame doesn’t have many pure pass rushers right now.  Darius Fleming has shown the potential to be a pass rusher and Prince Shembo certainly show that potential as well, but outside of them, the Irish are short on pass rushers.  If Williams can build on what he learned in the spring, he should be in the mix at OLB early on.

3. George Atkinson – Before the injury to Cameron Roberson I thought Atkinson would have the chance to play early as a return man.  With Roberson’s injury status very much up in the air for 2011, Atkinson could get on the field at the running back position.  He was originally recruited as a wide receiver, but he has played running back in high school and could get more than just a look at the position this fall.  Notre Dame will have just four running backs on scholarship in the fall if Roberson isn’t able to play so either Atkinson or fellow incoming freshman Cam McDaniel will likely see some carries.

4. Jalen Brown – This one may comes as a little bit of a surprise because Brown didn’t generate too much hype during the recruiting process, but one of the incoming freshman defensive backs is likely going to have to see the field early and my money is on Brown.  At a minimum, I think we’ll see Brown on special teams.  Even with the move of Bennett Jackson to corner, Notre Dame will have just 4 scholarship corners on the roster for the fall making getting Brown, or one of the other freshman defensive backs, ready for playing time will be important.

5. Stephon Tuitt – Tuitt was ranked higher than Lynch by most recruiting services, but Lynch’s early start definitely gives him the leg up in terms of seeing the field.  Tuitt will report to Notre Dame with the size needed for early playing time and once he picks up the defense it will surprise no one if he gets on the field quickly.  Outside of Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, none of the current defensive ends have really established themselves enough to feel comfortable enough about holding off Lynch and Tuitt in fall camp.

6. Davaris Daniels – Even if Michael Floyd ends up playing in every game for Notre Dame this year, there will still be a great opportunity for Daniels to see the field.  Outside of Floyd, the only other Irish wide receivers to establish themselves so far are Theo Riddick and TJ Jones.  Robby Toma started to emerge down the stretch last year as well, but outside of that handful, no one else has stepped up.  Bennett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth have both moved to defense and Atkinson will be getting reps at running back.

7. Ben Councell – Councell will take some time to learn the defense, but like Williams, he has the opportunity to push some of the older outside linebackers on the roster.  Councell won’t have the benefit of a full spring practice under his belt like Williams though so his impact on defense might not be as substantial this year.  He could, however, very well be a candidate for early playing time on special teams.

8. Everett Golson – This is a tough call here.  Golson is a very exciting prospect who showed us all a glimpse of his athleticism in the spring game, but at the same time he also showed us just how much work he needs to do.  It will be tempting for Brian Kelly to create a package of plays for Golson, but it may be equally tempting to preserve a year of eligibility by not throwing him to the wolves too early.  If Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, or Andrew Hendrix grab a firm grasp of the starting spot and don’t give Kelly a reason to make any quarterback changes, Golson very well could red-shirt.  At the same time, none of the three possesses the running ability of Golson.

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  1. Cam mcdaniel is a BEAST!!! This kid is the REAL deal I’m telling you. I don’t need to see his YouTube video I seen what this kid did every Friday and Saturday on the local hs football shows.. They lost to Euless Trinity by 2-3 pts in the playoffs and this kid was the clear HOSS of his team. Recruiting analyst r crazy to have him as a 3 star. Just wait and see what I’m talking about.

    GO IRISH!!!

  2. Pretty good observations, except I don’t see the need for Golson in 2011. We closed out 2010 pretty well without a “running QB” and we can assume both Crist and Rees have improved. Even in four years, Golson won’t be a first or second round pick, so he’ll probably play all four eligible years. Since it’s looking less likely there will be a big-name QB in the 2012 class, we may want to preserve Golson’s season.

  3. I believe Kyle Brindza belongs on this list. We are talking about kicking the ball out of the back of the endzone and very few kick off returns. This is big and has been missing for some time.

  4. Agree with all these guys except Golson. He will make an impact, just not next year. I think he redshirts and learns the position. Riddick and Goodman can both handle wildcat packages, and Hendrix could be used in running packages (as you describe for Golson). If I had to pick someone to replace him on the list it would be McDaniel, who I think gets forced to play due to Roberson’s injury.

  5. Which of these eight guys do you think will see the field for the Sept 4 opener vs. Purdue? Tuitt and Lynch seem very likely to get solid playing time (maybe even start). Atkinson and Williams may see the field as well. Not sure about the others so early in the season.

    1. I think you mean September 3 vs. USF. If you’re looking at the schedule at the top of the screen, that’s still last year’s schedule.

      Anyway, I think Cam McDaniel should be on this list. Have you watched this kid’s highlights?


      He’s got incredible running back instincts. Granted all recruits look good in their highlight videos, and he is small and white, but since we’re so thin at running back, and he was actually recruited at RB, as opposed to Atkinson who was going to play WR originally, I think McDaniel sees the field more than Atkinson this year. Although I would love to see Atkinson in the return game as well.

    2. even with Floyd, we’re thinner at receiver than most Irish fans realize or will admit. Kelly’s offense requires a ton of receivers and he likes to rotate liberally. Daniels is a real talent and I think he’ll play in the opener.

  6. I think Councell may redshirt and I’d have Hardy on the list. as with corners, we need to start building safety experience. I happen to think that Daniels will be the biggest impact freshman, although I certainly understand the argument for Lynch. I think Lynch will play obvious passing downs and be tasked with rushing the QB. I wasn’t as impressed as you were with his spring game performance against the run. I do think he plays early and often though and I think he’ll get a look in some packages against Michigan that are designed to contain Denard.

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